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Ranking the Starters

AKA The Good, The Bad, and The Lucky.

Jake shouldn't be seeing Buck this way nearly as often.
Jake shouldn't be seeing Buck this way nearly as often.
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Now that each starter has a couple of games under their belts, I wanted to see where our Birds rank with respect to the rest of the league, while considering the small sample size of 12 games.

81 starters are considered here. All stats are through Sunday's games. All data is from Fangraphs.


This is one of my favorite stats to look at. Strikeouts and walks are two of three "true outcomes" that indicate a pitcher's ability to fool hitters. Here are where the O's starters rank:

  • Wei-Yin Chen: 23rd in the American League @ 3.00
  • Jason Hammel: 48th @ 1.80
  • Chris Tillman: 61st @ 1.50
  • Jake Arrieta: 69th @ 1.17
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 70th @ 1.14

Wei-Yin Chen's mark of 3 strikeouts per walk is very, very good. It's bound to come down as he compiles more innings -- but perhaps not that much. In 2012, his K/BB ratio was 2.70, which ranked 18th in the AL.

The rest of our rotation is a mess. They have been walking entirely too many batters.

Note that K/BB ratios are a bit weird right now since several starters still haven't walked anybody. Their K/BB ratio is technically undefined; however, Fangraphs pretends the 0 is a 1, giving them a pretty high ratio. I think this is the correct approach.


Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched is another favorite stat of mine. The more runners you put on base, the more likely you are to give up runs.

  • Jason Hammel: 17th @ 1.07
  • Wei-Yin Chen: 28th @ 1.17
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 45th @ 1.38
  • Jake Arrieta: 58th @ 1.60
  • Chris Tillman: 76th @ 2.11

Chris Tillman is quite close to being the worst in the AL at putting runners on base. Fortunately, his BABIP is an astronomical .414. There's no way it will stay that high for the entire season, and as a result Tillman's WHIP (and overall numbers) should improve quite a bit.


Fielding-Indepdendent Pitching measures what a pitcher's ERA 'should' be, assuming that pitcher has an average defense behind him, an eagle-eyed and fair umpire, and neutral luck. Basically it measures only strikeouts, walks, HBPs, and home runs while accounting for the impact of each.

  • Miguel Gonzalez: 33rd @ 3.64
  • Jake Arrieta: 34th @ 3.69
  • Wei-Yin Chen: 41st @ 3.94
  • Chris Tillman: 48th @ 4.44
  • Jason Hammel 58th @ 5.24

It is a comfort, albeit a small one, to know that 3/5 of the starting rotation deserves an ERA under 4.


The difference between ERA and FIP indicates whether a pitcher is getting victimized by factors he cannot really control or whether he is the recipient of some good fortune.

If the number is positive, the pitcher is giving up more runs than he should be. A negative number means the pitcher is giving up fewer runs than he should be.

I've ranked in descending order so we can get the good news first! So the rank is in order of 'Who is being screwed the most?" down to "Who is getting lucky?"

  • Jake Arrieta: 9th @ 3.51. FIP thinks Arrieta's ERA (7.20) is more than twice that it should be, probably because he hasn't given up any home runs.
  • Chris Tillman: 16th @ 2.56. His ERA (7.00) is nearly as bad as Arrieta's but should come down at some point. Tillman has given up one home run all year.
  • Wei-Yin Chen: 43rd @ 0.06. Note the jump from 16th to 43rd. FIP thinks Chen is pitching as well as his ERA indicates. Since his ERA now is 4, I am okay with that.
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 54th @ -0.72. His ERA now is 2.92, so I am okay with an increase to 3.64.
  • Jason Hammel: 59th @ -0.90. FIP thinks the wheel will fall off Hammel and that his 4.34 ERA, which isn't terrible, will soon bloat past 5.00.


Which of our pitchers are benefitting from (or being victimized by) defense, luck, and skill of the opposition?

  • Jason Hammel: 9th @ .207 (career .309). The metrics agree: we're in for a wild ride with Jason Hammel this year. His ERA is league average even with with this crazy-low BABIP. When his BABIP starts to regress towards his career rate, his ERA will follow. Ugh.
  • Wei-Yin Chen: 40th @ .291. Note the jump in rank from 9th to 40th. Chen has just one year in the majors so I don't feel comfortable talking career numbers here.
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 41st @ .294. Move along now; nothing to see here.
  • Jake Arrieta: 55th @ .323. Jake's career BABIP is .294, so we can expect a bit of improvement here.
  • Chris Tillman: 75th @ .414. We covered this already; hopefully there are good times ahead for Tillman.

So out of five starters, we have three that should improve (by which I mean allow fewer runs than they have been), one that is pitching about as well as he can, and one that we really need to watch. What remains to be seen is if the three improvements will balance out the one decline. Either way, I'm not saying the rotation is or will be stellar, but there is a little bit of hope on the horizon.